By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 12/01/13 9:47pm
After beating Minnesota 14-3 on Saturday, the ESPN ended the Spartans’ weekend on quite the note.
During ESPN’s “BCS Countdown,” it was revealed the Spartans earned the No. 10 spot in the latest BCS Polls, but that’s when the fun started for MSU. Later in the episode BCS analyst Brad Edwards set his BCS bowl projections and had MSU slated against Arizona State in the 100th Rose Bowl. However, he picked OSU to head to the BCS National Championship Game, predicting an MSU loss this Saturday.
But the crew closed their show with better news for the Spartans — ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday. This is the third year “College GameDay” will be in attendance before an MSU game, and the second season in a row they will be preluding an OSU-MSU matchup.
By Dillon Davis
Last updated: 12/01/13 5:03pm
For much of the season, head coach Mark Dantonio has praised the way Andrew Maxwell has taken being unseated as MSU’s starting quarterback.
Maxwell was honored during senior day celebrations on Saturday, emerging from the Spartan Stadium locker room to one of the largest cheers of the day — no doubt a token of gratitude for the pressure and abuse Maxwell took from fans and members of the media.
However, one member of the Maxwell family wasn’t too happy about how senior day played out for the Midland, Mich. native.
On Saturday, Andrew’s brother Adam Maxwell, a media and information freshman at MSU, voiced his disapproval on Twitter that the senior quarterback didn’t get to play in the weekend’s win over Minnesota.
Note: The tweet has since been taken down off the account
By Dillon Davis, Stephen Brooks
Last updated: 11/30/13 11:43am
Ninety two days ago, the MSU football team kicked off the 2013 season at Spartan Stadium.
Today, the regular season comes to a close.
With a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game on the horizon, the No. 11 Spartans (10-1 overall, 7-0) host Minnesota (8-3, 4-3) in the regular season finale at Spartan Stadium (noon, Big Ten Network).
The Spartans also will celebrate Senior Day featuring the final home game for linebacker Max Bullough, linebacker Denicos Allen, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, tackle Blake Treadwell, tackle Fou Fonoti, guard Dan France and quarterback Andrew Maxwell, among others.
And although it will not be Jeremy Langford’s final game at Spartan Stadium, the junior running back will have the opportunity to eclipse 100 yards for his seventh consecutive game against the Golden Gophers, who currently rank seventh in the Big Ten is total rushing defense.
With kickoff upcoming, football reporters Dillon Davis and Stephen Brooks predict the action in East Lansing:
Prior to the season, I predicted the Spartans to finish 9-3 with losses to Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska.
Well, MSU swept all three of those teams — shows how much I know.
Nevertheless, it’s been a truly special season for the Spartans, who have been strong from start to finish on the defensive side of the ball while the offense gradually has been building toward a season ending crescendo. And they’ll have the chance to prove it against Ohio State next week in the Big Ten Championship Game.
But before that, the Spartans need to handle Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill and a surprisingly tough Golden Gophers team this afternoon.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook continues to grow under center, quickly becoming the unquestioned starter heading into the 2014 campaign — a luxury he was not afforded this season. As long as Langford keeps carrying the load of the running game while MSU’s wide receivers maintain the pace they’re on this year, the offense should do just fine.
Taking a look at the opponent, Minnesota is coming off a week where it was unable to score an offensive touchdown at home against Wisconsin. And while the Badgers are tough on defense, the road isn’t easier against MSU, who has been ranked nationally on defense all year long.
My prediction? I doubt the Golden Gophers have the firepower to top a consistently outstanding Spartan defensive attack.
MSU 35, Minnesota 14
The crowd won’t show up, but the Spartans will — eventually.
Between the emotions of senior day and a titanic championship matchup with Ohio State looming next weekend, I think MSU will get off to a slow start against Minnesota. Players and coaches have repeatedly stated how much they look forward to playing the Golden Gophers despite having the Legends Division title in hand, but you have to wonder how much of the Spartans’ attention has shifted to the Buckeyes.
Once the ball gets rolling though, MSU should cruise to a relatively stress-free victory. The prideful defense will play inspired football to send its seniors out on a high note.
If there’s a game within the game to keep an eye on, it’s Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman versus the MSU offensive line. The Spartans’ front line is playing as well as any under head coach Mark Dantonio, but Hageman is a disruptive force along the interior that’s effective both against the run and rushing the passer. He’s among the most talented defensive linemen MSU has faced this season, if not the best. Hageman should get his share of plays, but as long as he isn’t controlling the line of scrimmage MSU will be OK.
The highlight of the day comes on a late interception from senior safety Isaiah Lewis, returned to the red zone to set up an easy fade-route touchdown for senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler from quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who’s also a senior.
MSU 34 Minnesota 13
By Matt Sheehan
Last updated: 11/27/13 2:33pm
Seeing friends and family over Thanksgiving break? Are you a student season ticket holder for MSU football? Well, you can now combine the two into one day at Spartan Stadium.
MSU is allowing student season ticket holders to bring a guest with them to Saturday’s game against Minnesota (noon, BTN). The emailed flyer states the guest does not have to be a student, and both should enter through the student section gates upon arrival.
By Stephen Brooks
Last updated: 11/26/13 12:22am
Darqueze Dennard’s stellar senior season continues to earn him recognition and publicity across the country.
The cornerback was named one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive back. Dennard joins fellow corners Lamarcus Joyner from Florida State and Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State as the three candidates for the trophy.
Dennard also was selected as one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the top defensive player in the country last week.
He is the first Spartan ever named as a finalist for the award, and the second chosen as a Thorpe finalist behind Todd Krumm in 1987.
The Nagurski Trophy winner will be announced on Dec. 9 while the Thorpe Award will be dished out with a bevy of other honors at The Home Depot College Football Awards show Dec. 12 on ESPN.
In Saturday’s Legends Division-clinching win against Northwestern, Dennard recorded a career-high nine tackles and his fourth interception of the season, also a career-best. His 47 tackles in 2013 rank him fifth on the team, and his seven pass breakups lead all Spartans.
Dennard, who was ranked as the nation’s No. 3 defensive player by CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman, has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl all-star game after the season before he’ll likely be a high round selection in the NFL Draft. He has been a three-year starter at corner for a top-10 ranked MSU defense, and emerged as one of the most vital cogs of the current top-ranked unit.
On a Monday when multiple award finalists were named, junior punter Mike Sadler was not among them in contention for the Ray Guy Award. Sadler was chosen as one of 10 finalists on Nov. 8 and expected to be among the favorites to win the hardware. When the list was cut to three, only Purdue’s Cody Webster, Memphis’ Tom Hornsey and Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser remained.
No other MSU players are in contention for major individual awards this season.
By Stephen Brooks
Last updated: 11/18/13 4:52pm
If everything went according to plan, MSU’s fourth-quarter fake field goal — code name: Charlie Brown — would not have happened.
“I was excited to run it because every time we ran it in practice I ended up scoring a touchdown,” junior punter Mike Sadler said.
“But the look that they gave us was different, and I was actually supposed to check out of that and we were supposed to kick a field goal.”
Sadler didn’t notice the different alignment at the time, and went ahead with the fake instead of a 45-yard field goal attempt from freshman kicker Michael Geiger.
The situation required additional ad-libbing after the snap. Sadler said Charlie Brown is designed to be an outside run to the right (MSU also has “Lucy” in its playbook, the same play going to the left) but the hole was clogged so he turned it inside to grind out three yards and a first down.
An attempt at deception turned into a power run for the 192-pound punter with Geiger assuming the role of lead-blocker through the teeth of the defense.
So did Geiger throw a good block up the middle?
“I have no idea. I’m just gonna go ahead and assume no,” Sadler said. “I’ll have to watch film. I just remember being picked up … I’m just glad that I lived to see another day.”
Head coach Mark Dantonio has established a reputation for special teams trickery, and Sadler’s run Saturday setup a Connor Cook touchdown pass that put the Spartans in control the rest of the way.
Sadler has become something of a secret weapon for MSU, rushing for 25 and 26 yards on fake punts at Iowa this season (that one was coined “Hey Diddle Diddle Send Sadler Up the Middle) and at Michigan in 2012.
“At some point in time your head football coach has got to take chances,” Dantonio said. “That’s the basic thing. I told our football team at halftime, hey, we’re gonna roll the dice, and that’s what we were gonna do. I’d already made up my mind on that series if we got within field goal range than we were running the fake — Charlie Brown.”
Cook said he was confident in the call considering the team’s success rate when running it in practice, and noted Sadler has “one of the strongest bench presses” on the team.
“He’s a really, really strong guy. Doesn’t really look like it, but he’s a lot stronger than you think,” Cook said. “… Anytime the ball’s in his hands I feel comfortable, I feel like he’s gonna protect it and if he has to lower his shoulder, he’s gonna.”
“What was it? Fourth-and-1 or fourth-and-2? I figured we could at least get that with Sadler running the ball up the middle,” senior linebacker Max Bullough added.
By Stephen Brooks
Last updated: 11/14/13 8:41pm
Jay DatBull is now a Bronco.
Jay Harris, a former MSU recruit in the class of 2013, has committed to play football at Western Michigan. He never played in East Lansing in the wake of releasing a music video in which he was seen smoking marijuana under the name Jay DatBull, called “DatBull 4 Life.”
Harris, a three-star wide receiver prospect, tweeted the news Wednesday night:
MLive reported Harris returned to football via junior college and a prep school. Rivals.com now lists him as part of the 2014 class.
By Stephen Brooks
Last updated: 11/11/13 9:38pm
Much has been said and written about the outstanding MSU defense this season, which remains the No. 1-ranked unit in the nation.
But one of its biggest assets, junior punter Mike Sadler, quietly has put together an exceptional season and was honored as a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the top punter in the country each year.
He leads the nation in punts downed inside the 10-yard line with 15, and is tied for second place with 22 kicks pinned inside the 20-yard line. Even more impressive, six of his 47 punts have been downed inside the 5, including a pair on the 1-yard line.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., native averages 42.8 yards on his punts, ranking him second in the Big Ten and No. 25 nationally. In 2012, Sadler was a first-team All-Big Ten selection with an average of 43.3 yards.
“Mike Sadler has helped make us a great defense with his precision placement of punts this fall,” defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said in a release from the athletics department. “… That gives our offense a short field to work with.”
In MSU’s 42-28 win against Indiana, Sadler notched a career-high average of 59.2 yards on four punts, highlighted by a season-best 69-yard boot.
Freshman Cameron Johnson from Ohio State and Purdue senior Cody Webster round out the Big Ten semifinalists.
By Dillon Davis
Last updated: 11/10/13 6:09pm
After a 1-8 start to the season, Eastern Michigan fired head football coach Ron English last week, ending a five-season run for the former Michigan defensive coordinator.
However, the Detroit News reported a story Saturday that leaked audio of an epic tirade by English directed at his players played a role in his dismissal.
During the meltdown, English tells his team they’re playing “shitbird football,” later referring to the team as a group of “quitting ass bitches.” English also tells his team he does not respect them and calls them “f****t ass motherf***ers.”
Eastern Michigan Director of Athletics Heather Lyke released a statement about the audio, making it clear that type of behavior is not welcome in the program.
“I received a tape of a situation in which Coach English had addressed the team and used wholly inappropriate language,” Lyke said in a statement. “We hold our coaches and staff to high standards of professionalism and conduct and there is no place, particularly in a student environment, where this language is appropriate. The statements made by Coach English are absolutely unacceptable.
“My decision to make a change in leadership of our football program was the culmination of a lot of factors including the comprehensive review of our program, the competitive performance and this tape. Our primary interest is in the well being and success of our student-athletes and this will continue to be our priority in every decision we make and every action we take.
“My focus moving forward is on the quality of our student-athletes’ experience as well as the search process for the next leader of our football program.”
English later apologized for the language in an interview with the Associated Press.
“As a man who has coached 21 years, obviously, on this occasion and particular meeting, I lost my poise, got upset and used language that was inappropriate, particularly as it pertains to homosexual slurs. I regret that,” English told the AP in a telephone interview on Saturday. “I apologize to the university for putting it in this position and tarnishing its reputation. I look forward to continuing a career that has been marked by molding men of integrity, passion, and intensity for 21 years.”
The team already experienced a large blow this season with the death of EMU receiver Demarius Reed.
Reed was found dead outside his off-campus apartment on Oct. 18 from multiple gunshot wounds. His death came one day before the team was scheduled to play the Ohio Bobcats.
By Stephen Brooks
Last updated: 11/06/13 5:10pm
Mark Dantonio is the 51st-highest paid head coach in Division I, according to data released Wednesday by USA Today.
The newspaper created a database showing Dantonio’s 2013 compensation of $1,959,744 ranks him ninth among Big Ten coaches. He also can make an additional $650,000 in bonuses. Among the coaches in front of him are first-year men Gary Andersen at Wisconsin and Purdue’s Darrell Hazell.
Since 2008, MSU has won more Big Ten games than any program.
The entire list can be found here.
Former Spartan coach Nick Saban, now in his seventh year at Alabama, is the nation’s highest paid coach, raking in $5,545,852 this year.
Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke, the head coaches at football powerhouses Ohio State and Michigan both rank in the top 10 nationally. Meyer, who remains undefeated since taking over the Buckeyes program, will make $4,608,000 while Hoke rakes in $4,154,000.
Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten, will make $3,985,000 — putting him ninth in the country — despite not winning a conference championship since 2004.
The remaining Big Ten coaches rank: No. 14 Bill O’Brien (Penn State), No. 18 Bo Pelini (Nebraska), No. 41 Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), No. 43 Hazell, No. 47 Andersen, No. 60 Tim Beckman (Illinois), No. 66 Kevin Wilson (Indiana) and No. 67 Jerry Kill (Minnesota).